2016 in Review: An Honest and Transparent Look at My Successes & Failures This Past Year


2016-reviewA few days ago, I was contacted by Matt Oestreicher for a podcast interview on The Mindful Musician. Our talk started with Matt mentioning how much he loved my 2015 in review post from last year.

Knowing that this resonated with him made me realize I should do it again, so here is my 2016 review.

I will give it to you straight, and say where I did well, and where I think could have been better.

1. Accountability for misses in 2016

guilty-kittyI’d like to get this off the table first ?

I missed the mark in 2016 on my blog and Youtube output. I had committed to do both a blog post & video once a month – but only did 3 videos and 4 blog posts.

I promised “public humiliation” in my last review if I were to miss these.

Saying “sorry” is not enough accountability, so I will choose to show you that I’ll suffer a slightly more painful, verifiable consequence.

I will price each missed post at $50 and each video at $50 – out of my pocket.

8 posts missed = $400
9 videos missed = $450

Here are the receipts – I just donated $850 to 2 worthwhile charities to publicly pay for commitments missed. 

This way my loss becomes a win for some of God’s creatures and my brothers and sisters in need of medical care somewhere here on planet earth.

$550 to Doctors without Borders
$300 to the Animal Welfare Institute


[editorial reply – D’OH! actually I did 8 blog posts – one was a CD promo post. Oh well, I donated a tad more than I had to, but to a worthy cause…no problemo!]

2016 Vitals, Numbers & Statistics

a. New CD

b. Touring

c. Teaching on StudyWithAdam.com
d. Creativity – Youtube, Blogging, Composing

e. Ongoing Rituals – Exercise, Meditation, Guitar Practice

a) New CD
I committed in writing last year that I would do a new CD.

“Play Pretty for the People” was released in September of 2016. This required more follow through and grit than I thought it would.

Play Pretty for the People - Adam Rafferty Fingerstyle Guitar

I encountered mental resistance. I kept asking myself things like…“Should I release it only digitally? And why am I even doing it?…After all, everyone can hear everything free on Spotify….Why do it?

I decided that it would be best to take action, not give way to the noisy questioning mind and like NIKE says, “just do it.” Now my audiences can take home another lovely CD after shows!

b) Touring

I consider this year’s touring a mix of success and mistakes.

I played 70 concerts total which may sound like a lot, but I feel it could be more if it were better planned. I tallied up my gig days traveling away from home and it was 156.

156 days travel for 70 concerts?

I said yes to too many “one shot” (non consecutive) gigs which took a minimum of 3 days (sometimes more) due to travel for one concert.


The gigs were an absolute joy, audiences were great and the music was fun. However, the price I have paid for this type of “passive” tour scheduling is what I call the “hidden cost of task switching.”

“By picking any task up, putting it down, and picking it up again – things end up taking 500% longer to finish.” – Brian Tracy (paraphrase)

Because of task switching, I spent too much energy refocusing and re-orienting on projects that I started and stopped. Neither touring nor non-tour activities got the unbroken, consecutive days and weeks they really needed to really catch a groove.

Consecutive tour dates are a better plan.
 I will address the solution for this later in the post.

c) Teaching on StudyWithAdam.com

I am very pleased at how StudyWithAdam.com is going. I love my students, and I love serving them with great coaching, and the best knowledge I can give them.


This year, I contributed the following to StudyWithAdam.com:

  • 286 video replies to student uploads (each one takes 30-35 mins work time)
  • 10 hours worth of guitar instructional videos for Summertime, She’s Leaving Home, Just the Two of Us, Key Signatures, Voice Leading Minor Triads, Misty, Girl from Ipanema, and How to Solo over II-V-I changes
  • PDF help files to go with each Lesson
  • 2 hour 18 min audio book & 108 page PDF on “How To Arrange for Solo Fingerstyle Guitar”
  • “7 Tools for Recording Great Sounding Fingerstyle Guitar At Home PDF” for students who asked about gear and recording at home

Quicker turn-around time would be an improvement. Some students had to wait longer than expected for my replies. I’d also like to have put slightly more material out there.

Overall though, it was a success.

The “7 tools” report is also available to non StudyWithAdam.com members here:


Find out what simple (and affordable) equipment I use at home to record to get a CD quality fingerstyle guitar sound.

d) Blogging, Youtube and Musical Creativity:

Ok, in 2016 I seriously fell short and promised to be held publicly accountable. I’m GUILTY as charged.

I only produced 4 blog posts, and 3 youtube videos, composed a few tunes.

The only song video on Youtube was “Summertime” the other 2 were a CD announcement and a Q&A livestream.

I have been digging into the problem, trying to understand where I got off the mark, and ultimately this is what I have found…

Environment vs Discipline

I once heard a wonderful interview about we often think our self-discipline is the problem, when in fact the environment is the problem.

As it turns out, the right environment actually makes discipline easier.

For example:

  • it’s easier to do push ups at the gym than on one’s living room floor

  • it’s easier to meditate in a silent place than a loud place
  • it’s easier to work in an office than at home
  • it’s easier to practice music in a dedicated practice room

I mistakenly thought that “discipline” was all I needed – when in fact I needed the proper “environment.” I had not taken responsibility to find a place for solitude and silence in which I could create.

So – I was trying to compose and do deep creative thinking at home, where there was a constant buzz of people, distraction, laundry, pets and other responsibilities. 

To fix this, I have recently changed my work environment in order to be more productive. I am in day 2 at my new work studio and loving it!

e) Ongoing Rituals – Exercise, Meditation, Guitar Practice


I stayed in the game physically by running 2-3 days per week, doing some yoga and getting to the gym or on the floor for exercise 1-2 days per week.

I always feel better mentally and physically when I work out. When the weather was warmer I was always heading out for a run, so that’s good. Could & should be more ?

Practicing Guitar:
Even though I am a pro, I am in need of tidying up my practice approach.

Last year, I found myself functioning like a factory (output) rather than a laboratory (trying new things.)

This approach led to a lot of repetitive practice rather than mindful practice.

Here’s what I suspect: By not having steady “solitude and creativity” I slipped into a lot of disciplined technical practice so I could pick up a guitar and feel as if I was “getting to work”, even if I stood in the middle of chaos.

So yes, I did put my hours in but I believe that creativity needs to come back in place of technical practice. 

Again, I am excited to see what having a work space will bring this next year.


I almost always get up early (anywhere 4 – 6 am) and after a coffee I’ll light a candle, and incense stick and sit in silent meditation for 30-45 minutes…sometimes 2x a day.

One of the great spiritual teachings is simply “Be still.” When I do find the stillness, it’s as if I can feel the healing that it brings.

This year, I’d like to go to a meditation class or retreat this year to learn more. Should it interest you, here’s a guy who I have learned a lot from online – Adyashanti.

3. What I Learned in 2016 – 4 big takeaways & Solutions

a. The Hidden Cost of Task Switching

Going on and off tour is less efficient than either being on tour or off tour for an extended stretch of time. Too much energy was spent in mental re-orientation and travel time.

In 2017 I will pick a “time window” for touring as I plan 2018 and say NO to (almost) anything outside that window.

 Of course there may be exceptions but on the whole, I will not be “always available” in 2018. (I will probably pick the Fall months as tour time)

b. Environment vs Discipline

I have the new work studio, let’s see if the environment helps!

c. Focus on strengths & creativity, not weaknesses and perfection

Creativity has an entirely different feel to it than repetitive practice in the pursuit of perfection. That’s where my best stuff has come from, so it’s time to get back there.

d. Produce at all costs

“The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” An alternative form is “Hell is full of good meanings, but Heaven is full of good works”. Wikipedia

How true! All the productivity gurus say “don’t get it perfect, get it done.”

Why? Because in the end, I can only show you what I did – the CD, the lessons on StudyWithAdam and so on.

I can’t show you what “I intended to do, meant to do, and wanted to do.”

My Commitments for 2017

Minimum requirements:

  • 12 blog posts or else pay $50 to charity per missed post
  • 12 Youtube posts or else pay $50 to charity per missed post
  • 12 new tunes written on music paper or else pay $50 to charity per missed tune
  • Pick a time window for my 2018 touring and stick to it (most likely the Fall months)

I will also outline tune ideas, article ideas AHEAD of time into a spreadsheet starting this week.

In Conclusion

Thank you – sincerely!

By reading this and allowing me to write this and communicate with transparency, you help hold me accountable. The process of writing and rewriting this post has been an eye opener.

I urge you to do the same…measure and take stock of your successes and failures, and I bet you’ll see a new plan unravel before you.

I wish you a happy and productive 2017!

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I’m Adam Rafferty – a guitar player born and raised in New York City, and currently spending most of my time on the road playing concerts and doing workshops. I am a lover of all things groovy and love spreading musical knowledge!



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